Milan - Australian Ben O'Connor won the third stage of the Tour of the Alps on Wednesday with Britain's four-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome finishing sixth.
Dimension Data rider O'Connor crossed alone five seconds ahead of Thibaut Pinto of FDJ with the French rider taking the overall race lead, after the 138.3km ride from Ora to Merano in northern Italy.
Overnight leader Ivan Sosa of Colombia crashed out on the final descent.
"Even if I missed the stage victory ... I'm satisfied to wear the leader's jersey," said Pinot, who finished second in the Alps last year behind Britain's Geraint Thomas.
O'Connor added: "It's just great to now be able to race with the best and to manage to pull that off is surreal.
"In cycling, I'm not especially aiming to win the Tour de France or the World Championship, I just want to be the best I can be and today, I won this hard stage."
Italy's Domenico Pozzovivo and Colombian Miguel Angel Lopez Moreno are second and third overall with Team Sky's Froome holding fourth as he continues his preparations for next month's Giro d'Italia.
Froome crossed the line in sixth on the stage which featured two difficult climbs along the way which split the peloton and a final summit 25km from the finish.
The 32-year-old now sits 16 seconds back on Pinot with two stages to go.
"We tried to keep Froomey in a good position, but quickly it became very hard as there were constant attacks," said Sky team-mate Kenny Elissonde.
"The plan was to try to reduce the gap and then maybe Froomey could cross. In the end he was able to do that which was good."
Froome is competing despite world cycling's anti-doping unit probing an adverse analytical finding for the asthma drug salbutamol given by the 32-year-old at the Vuelta a Espana last September.
Thursday's fourth and penultimate stage is a 134.3km ride between Chiusa/Klausen and Lienz in Austria.
Results from the third stage of the Tour of the Alps, over 138.3km from Ora to Merano in the north of Italy:
1. Ben O'Connor (AUS/Dimension Data) 3hr 30min 05sec, 2. Thibault Pinot (FRA/FDJ) at 5sec, 3. Dominico Pozzovivo (ITA/Bah) same time, 4. George Bennett (NZL/Lotto) s.t. 5. Luis Leon Sanchez (ESP/Astana) s.t. 6. Chris Froome (GBR/Sky) s.t.
1. Thibault Pinot (FRA/FDJ) 10hr 52min 19sec, 2. Dominico Pozzovivo (ITA/BAH) at 15sec, 3. Miguel Angel Lopez (COL/Astana) s.t. 4. Chris Froome (GBR/Sky) at 16sec, 5. Fabio Aru (ITA/UAE) 50sec